the Just Posts rolling around on the calendar always gets me thinking about what really matters to me. what i consider social justice to mean, and to require of me. what i consider a life well-lived to be. what i want O to learn, from me, about what it means to be human.

all these answers change and shift, from month to month…my mind is not organized along doctrinal lines, on most of this. i think our society’s problems are systemic, yes. i think we are made more human when we find ways to connect with others, yes. but this is messy stuff, and every time i delve into it, i come up with another part of the elephant in my hands. except for one little bit.

i know exactly what i hope for Oscar. i have, tucked away in that part of my brain that knows the lyrics to everything if the tune to almost zilch, my own personal holy scripture on this one. i know what i wish for the young.

it came to me one summer morning almost exactly seven years ago, packaged up nicely in a folky melody with harmonicas, to boot. i was still in my twenties, plunking away on my M.A. thesis in a little attic den with CBC playing on a tinny radio, when a song came on and had me from the first word.

and i was riveted, transported backward and forward in time. what they were playing was Bob Dylan’s version of “Forever Young” – not to be confused with the Alphaville song of the same name nor with anything by Rod Stewart, thank you. it is a simple song, for a Dylan song, a benediction written for his children. it is the song Howard Cosell recited, in honour and tribute, over the last rounds of Muhammad Ali’s comeback fight in the final days of the fighter’s heyday. it rings for me with all the political and cultural and systemic upheaval of the culture and era i was born into, and with the legends of Dylan and Ali when they were icons of youth and promise and change. it rings for me with all the idealism and anger of the sixties, and it rings for me with hope. with the fresh start of youth. with the goodness and possibility i see in kids, every day…that fragile thing that so few of us are able to keep nearly long enough.

i’d heard the song before that morning, but not for years and years…it evoked for me the comforting familiarity of childhood, and the remembered scratch of my mother’s Joan Baez records. but it also evoked, in me, for the first time, a deep, primal urge to have a child. to be a mother. to shape a life. to take on the risk and staggering responsibility of actually raising a human being. that draw…to do well by the hostage to fortune i’ve been blessed with…is still the most compelling thing i know.

i like to think, sometimes, that we’ll be able to raise O to be better than we are. more giving. less grasping. more able to approach difference with grace and empathy and interest, rather than discomfort and shuffling. more likely to take action, to believe he can make some kind of difference. i don’t believe in the modernist notion of progress, true, and i am weary, already, with the cynicism of my post-boomer generation that has watched Dylan and Ali grow old and mortal in the harsh public eye. but i still have hope. i believe hope gets reborn with every new generation.

this is what i hope, for Oscar…for all children.

May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

– Bob Dylan, copyright 1973

i know not all these things will happen for O. i know not all of them should...his wishes to eat more and more and more cheese, for instance, might have an unfortunate effect on his digestive tract. but he will have the chance at more of these things than most. and when the day comes – and i hope it does, in the sense that i hope to see his adulthood and his flowering – that he leaves his youth behind and grows into a man, i hope that he can carry into the world a little of the beauty and the promise that is in him now. that he can keep believing that he is worthy of the words of the song.

no matter what.

if he can, i will know i’ve done well by him.

…but oh, i am so lucky to have that chance. for me, a just world might start with all little children having the luxury of believing these words were written for them. for that to happen, though, more parents than i can get my mind around would need believe it about themselves first. that they are worthy. that there is help, and support out there. that people give a shit. that the world is not just a spin cycle of pain and damage that has hurt them, and will hurt their kids in turn. to Thordora, who wrote a raw, fierce post a couple of weeks ago about the turning away that meets mental illness and poverty so often in our culture, i offer up a Just Post nod and my thanks, for continuing to add to my internal catalogue of what i believe social justice requires of me. to notice. to try. to be courageous, and stand upright, and not hide from suffering even when i don’t know how to fix it.

justpostmay2007

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with Jen & Mad at the helm, the Just Posts have raised over $1300 for Open Arms and the Stephen Lewis Foundation this month. so many little children who need a chance. please keep giving,  where you can.